Tuesday, February 21, 2017

~ footprint ~

NOTE: this poem will be submitted for the Long Exposure Magazine 2017 Nature Writing Anthology:

One footprint.
Nestled among the clover, 
Growing too soon yet still there.
My steps, carrying along
the thoughts of solitude
along the forest trail.
A prayer, one word spoken
with every touch and contact made
with leaves that linger on either side.
Heady, musk surrounds my
senses, leaving me stronger and with confidence.
I move forward, each step
softened under the green
that causes whispers from my shoes.
I am a nomad in modern time - 
reflective of what one, what I,
can do, feel, think, understand.
The sun, filtered through branches, provides a sense to
"go on, dear one."
I refuse to be still.
Dancing along mushrooms are
the children of the trees.
Silent, I am watchful and 
careful. One step. Another. Another.
I am no longer a stranger.
One footprint. Here upon the green 
that settles to create a welcoming path.
One footprint.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Japanese Rock in the 901

When I learned that Japanese rock band Kazha was now living in Memphis, I was overjoyed! I immediately looked them up and started listening to their music. I saw them perform at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention last year and realized that they have quite a following. I'm more than proud to say that I'm one of them. While on my way back from a lovely vacation with Viking in Chattanooga this past weekend, I popped in the CD Evolution - WOW! If you are looking for killer hard rock music mixed with poetic lyrics, you NEED to listen to Kazha. Their music is perfect for those who enjoy hard rock, Gothic rock, or just damn great music.

From the first track Wake Up II - Wake Me Up to the final track of Blend and Fly, Evolution is a solid listen that will make you put the CD on repeat. The songs range from hard hitting to soft and tender, with lyrics that talk of love and loss. Kazuha Oda, the lovely siren and bass player of the band, sings these songs as though she is showing you her soul. The lyrics are personal and emotional, yet you'll soon be singing along with her. None of the songs are "weak links" - the entire CD is excellent in every way. Several of the songs that really stood out for me were Breathe Again, Face Your Fears, and Break Into Pieces. These songs felt as though she actually performed in my car as I drove home. When she sings, you know it's real.

After giving the first concert of the weekend at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention, I ran into Kazuha in the bathroom. I greeted her in Japanese, to which she smiled and said that I spoke Japanese really well.

Best. Compliment. Ever!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lacey Yeager's World of Art

Imagine, if you will, that you've been invited to a party at a friend's house. When you arrive, you see old and new faces and you smile, just as the host walks up to you and tells you that his friend Steve is running late. When you ask who Steve is, your host just smiles and walks off. A while later, everyone rushes towards the front door as "Steve" makes his arrival. You, however, gasp - it's Steve Martin! THE Steve Martin! After he says his hellos and gives many a handshake, you are then introduced to him by your host. He smiles, shakes your hand and says that its nice to meet you. You, on the other hand, smile nervously and try not to look foolish. He then grins and tells the party that he's got quite a story to tell. He makes his way towards the couch and sits down, just as everyone else gathers around him with their drinks and food. You sit down as well with baited breath. Someone hands him a glass of seltzer water; Steve Martin takes it, sips on it, then clears his throat and begins his story. Soon, you find yourself forgetting that you have a drink in your hand, and the others forget that their food is going cold. It's Steve Martin and the story he's telling is quite entertaining.

That's what it felt like when I read his book An Object of Beauty.  From the moment I read the first lines, as written by art writer Daniel Franks, I knew I was in for a treat. This book draws you into a world that not many of us know about and if we do, we either glorify it or we try to snub it. Lacey Yaeger is a young woman living in New York in the 90s who views the art world as something to be conquered. She makes friends without a care, seduces men just for the hell of it, and finds art to be more than just paint slapped on a canvas. After her lowly start in the basement of Sotheby's, she climbs her way to the top, all the while purchasing and selling art to those with discerning tastes and money to burn. Her closest friend, Daniel, is the narrator of her life - he knows Lacey and understands her to a point, yet even he gets stumped once in a while by her actions.

Any man who gets close to her is pushed away; she refuses to be tied down to anything. Except art. To her, art is Life, her life and the way she wants to live it. Buying a Warhol for her apartment makes her feel like her clients, giving her even deeper access to the world she occupies. She rises higher and higher on the art ladder, evolving from worker in a gallery to owning one, with no end in sight. However, due to greed, thrill seeking, or the dream to take a risk (or perhaps all of the above), it all comes crashing down on her with a background of 9-11 and the stock market crash. However, Lacey is one tough cookie - if she can handle the art world, then anything else is just a bicycle ride through Central Park.

I have to admit that I actually liked Lacey; granted, I could only hang out with her for short periods of time, yet I truly liked her. She always seemed to have a foot in both worlds - the world of the rich who can afford an original Van Gogh for millions of dollars, and the college student/early adult world of secondhand furniture mingled with thrift store shopping for cocktail party dresses and seeking out the cheap restaurants where the food is too good to be true. Lacey enjoys the thrill of having sex with a patron on a balcony at a hotel, then sealing the deal on artwork once thought to be lost to the Western World. And yet, out of all of her friends, Daniel seems to understand her the best. And the worst.

Steve Martin presents the world of art in a way only he knows - funny, truthful, entertaining, and just Steve Martin. This book had me hooked from page one; I had to know what Lacey was up to every day. She reminded me of a Holly Golightly (and for those of you who don't know who that is, go read Breakfast at Tiffany's - great book and film!)  - woman about town making a name for herself, and giving personal views into her life to very few people. Lacey is not and never will be part of the masses. or rather - the masses would never want her to partake in their world. And that's just fine with her.

If he does happen to read this review - Mr. Martin, PLEASE write more books. You've got a knack for it.

Thank you.


Monday, February 13, 2017

901 Story - The Tea Connoisseur

He was a regular yet never approached my booth. Every time I saw him, he always looked as though he had just stepped out of an outdoors magazine - always well put together with an air of confidence that came naturally as he handled his recycled bags with much ease. It shocked me when he, on a random Saturday, walked up to my booth and asked me what I sold. When I replied "Tea", his eyes lit up as he proceeded to reveal himself as quite the connoisseur. A bag of Cyberpunk tea caught his eye as he told me how Canada was very much a Tea Country. I listened as he spoke, glad that I was meeting more and more tea lovers in the city. Although we never said it, we silently agreed that we lived in a Coffee City. I immediately liked him as he purchased a bag of tea then left.

Every so often, I do miss coffee.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

901 Story - The Singer

I first met her during a tour; she reminded me just why I love the city and how much it had to offer. She showed the tour group that Memphis was far from dead and that Her residents had and always would be there for Her. Memphis speaks in music passed down from lips to lips; from Delta souls to the fire of Beale Street to the rough edges of STAX. She showed us these things with a smile and a spirit that couldn't be denied. Months and nights later, I finally made the attempt to see her sing in a local bar. I dashed inside from the cold and found myself in a place that states that ART will never die. The band played. She sang. I listened. The way she held her guitar and closed her eyes when she sang. Her voice, surrounded by the music, was of Memphis. A guy next to me nudged me then said that he loved her voice. I nodded and continued to listen amid the sounds of enjoyment from the patrons. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

901 Story - Gods of the Southwest

Gods of the Southwest ~

A black woman with a bohemian flair walked up to my booth at the community farmers market, carrying confidence and strength within her long curly hair. When she informed me that she was from Arizona and not a local, my eyes lit up as I told her how much I enjoyed her state. Her eyes, although hidden by her sunglasses, gave off a flow that could only be experienced in the desert. We chatted about the Southwest and how much I also loved New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Suddenly, a young girl who looked like an activist for the Earth, jumped into our conversation and said that she was from New Mexico. Las Cruces, in fact. She proudly showed off her state flag patch on her denim jacket and we all shared a laugh. Minutes later, the older woman artist whose table was next to mine strolled over to me and stated that she, too, used to live in Arizona. Her artwork were woodblock paintings of herbs and animals and it seemed that she breathed a new sense of Life in the colours. I felt the spirit of O'Keeffe smiling at me and realized that the gods of the Southwest were trying to say hello again. 

(Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico - 2015)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Apartment in the 901 - Of Buddha and Birthdays

I live in an apartment building where the residents are stories just waiting to be written down. The first "story" set in my apartment building was posted on my Facebook page not too long ago. I enjoyed writing it so much that I decided to continue the series - turning events and conversations in my apartment building into stories.

I hope you enjoy them.

He spoke to me of turning fifty the next day and how his mother wanted to throw a party for him. When he said the word "party", he frowned as if he'd eaten a lemon. I couldn't believe that he would soon be fifty; he looked to be about my age if not younger, or perhaps it was because of where we lived. When I told him that my birthday was around the corner, he smiled. He wore a simple black shirt that showed off Bill Murray's face with wrinkled khaki pants to complete the look. I thought he was an artist and for a moment, I wanted to ask him if he used special brushes for his paintings. Before we spoke of birthdays, we talked about a Buddha statue I purchased at a thrift store because it looked too lonely sitting among long forgotten Christmas decorations. When I laughed while complaining to him about the statue's weight as I tried to get it in the elevator, he laughed with me and claimed that Buddha was teaching me a lesson. Now, every time I walk by the statue in my living room, I'm inclined to agree with him. 

(model: Alissa Brielle - copyright 2015, Memphis)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

~ cranberry juice ~

Driving to a destination not planned
with the windows down, allowing
the sun to bless me for the day.
A mason jar of fresh cranberry juice,
hint of lime,
seated next to me, refresh and
tingle my tongue, giving me
reassurance that the sun is real.
Listening to music that smells
like fresh laundry pulled in from outside.
The journey is within my blood,
seeking release and to be shared
with those who still see the dark.
Those who seek with hands, touching
life and not giving up until the
glass of cranberry juice quenches their thirst.
This is who I am - 
free, untamed, bohemian, sensualist - 
as reminded by someone who sees me
as I truly am.
Viridian, my freedom colour,
setting me away from the world
and yet thrive within it; the feeling
of knowing that this is NOW,
of here, right and now.
Taoist teachings lend strength
to the winds that speak my name.
edging me to go on and on.
Never turn back.
Never regret. Never surrender.
Follow the flow as directed by
the black wings of the Raven,
the eyes of the goddess who blesses me.
I refuse to close my eyes
and shut out that which is before me - 
of welded steel carried by the 
old Samurai who wants to teach me
how to dance in the air
and bring fear to my enemies.
One drop of the cranberry juice
reminds me to keep alive that
which those have tried to poison.
Fly fast and true, wings given by 
my goddess of War and Death.
Fly onward in the journey.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Memories of Cypress Parish

Reading Elise Blackwell is quite an enjoyment; her words evoke such imagery and emotions that could only come from someone who has seen and experienced much in their life. Although she and I have never met face to face, I consider her to be a friend, if only in the aether.

The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish is a reflection, albeit a fictional one, of a man looking back on his life and the choices he made during the Spring of 1927. Louis Proby, now an old man, is awaiting the "arrival" of Hurricane Katrina, yet his mind goes back in time to when New Orleans first flooded in 1927. During that year, he was a strapping 17 year old man in Cypress, Louisiana who had seen little yet knew that there was more to Life. During this Spring, he fell in love and lost his virginity, made friends with men in high places, experienced the big city of New Orleans in all its glorified debauchery, and was a victim of a flooding that shouldn't have happened in the first place.

His father was an upright and fair man with both whites and blacks, his mother was a pious woman, and his siblings carried their own personalities. I do have to admit that out of all his siblings, I preferred Emily and her connection to the world through her sense of smell. Although Louis' father wants him to be a doctor, Louis desires something else, something grander than what he experiences in the day to day. In thanks to his friend, the artist Gaspar Anderson, he understands that the world is what you make of it; a muddy river can hold so many colours, and a simple girl can be on the verge of exploding into a woman who can feel more than others.

Elise has this thing with her writing that I simply adore - her quiet words create such magick across the pages. The rhythm of what she is trying to convey is simple and direct yet with a hushed sense that holds so much power within. She reveals much with very little as others try to do with over 1000 pages. I always enjoy a book when I can feel myself there among the characters; I had no trouble slipping back in time to 1920s Louisiana and watching Louis come into his own under the threat of a flood. This book, along with all of her others, is highly recommended.

Thank you, as always, Elise.


Monday, January 23, 2017

He Who Rules the Oceans is No One

As much I love adventure novels, I truly have no excuse for reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne so late in my life. This classic novel by Jules Verne is a grand mixture of suspense, history and adventure as three men from different backgrounds meet a man who is unlike any man they'd ever met.

After several sightings of a mysterious new fish in the oceans, Professor Aronnax and his servant Conseil, and Ned Land, a fierce and courageous harpooner, take to the warship Abraham Lincoln to solve the mystery. However, after their ship is sunk by the mysterious creature, the three survivors discover that their "foe" is not animal but rather of machine - the infamous submarine the Nautilus - and Captain Nemo at the helm. As Nemo takes them in with distinct instructions that they will never leave the Nautilus, the trio are soon crossing through seas and oceans, making discoveries while visiting the watery graves of many a sunken ship. Aronnax, our narrator, provides us with clear accounts of braving through icebergs and getting trapped in one, seeing the lost continent of Atlantis, fighting off sharks, burying the dead in a coral cemetery, and battling giant squid who have a taste for man flesh (that scene was AMAZING, by the way)

While the adventures and discoveries seem to never end, the trio do remind themselves that they are prisoners in the Nautilus - they can never leave. Nemo, a bitter man against the world, sees fits to never set foot on true land again or interact with other people of the world. He finds freedom in the water and makes it his home - a place with no rules. Yet, and I found myself thinking about this at great length - is Nemo a self imposed prisoner as well? Did he confuse freedom with prison? I've read several books that talk of people who, after getting fed up with the world, decide to strike out on their own and find some secluded spot to create a new life - books such as Into the Wild and Walden come to mind. Yet, as with Nemo, I have to wonder if we are truly capable of cutting ourselves off from other people, to live in seclusion and away from the rules of the world.  Aronnax, on several occasions, thinks his host to be mad in emotion and feeling. Is Nemo mad, or perhaps something else entirely?

I saw the Disney movie several years ago and loved it, yet the book is much darker and more in depth as to Nemo's psyche, two things that I absolutely love. This story will stay with me for quite some time - if not for the darkness within Nemo, then definitely for the detailed descriptions of ocean life as provided by Aronnax. I felt as though I was right there with them, watching the ocean reveal its beauty as far as the eye could see.